Make your resume stand out

A decade ago, a job opening in the field of communications and public relations (PR) would perhaps attract 30-40 applicants. That was a kind of a norm then. Today, if you like me, stay curious about the job scene, you may notice the dramatic increase in the number of applicants for one posting.

On a popular employment portal, the post of communications advisory for a not-for-profit had almost 2000 views. Guess the number of applicants? Almost 1700!

It is the sign of the times we live in. Covid has left behind permanent scars of unemployment, mental fatigue, burn-out, dejection and work from home has only exacerbated the situation. There are far few jobs available and a large talent pool that is hungry for employment.

In such a scenario, what are the chances your application for the above post will even see the light of the day?

Do you think HR will really go through such a huge pile of applications? Research studies show that we spend on an average 8- 12 seconds reading an email. How can you ensure that your email captures the attention of the HR/hiring manager in those critical 8-12 seconds?

Often our mind is full of questions as we grapple with the best way to make our resume stand out. Here are some sticky areas.

Common questions that are often a sticky point:

The resume should be how long?

Many people do the mistake of writing long and detailed resumes. There is this inherent need to put down everything in the resume, list down all the achievements, all the jobs, all the educational qualifications, and so on and so forth. This is not required at all. Your resume should not be more than two pages, maximum three.

How do I begin my resume?

The initial quick read of your resume should be impactful enough to have the hiring manager shortlist it and schedule a call with you. Hence, pay importance to writing a powerful opening paragraph that summarizes your professional journey and your key competencies.

I have held 6 jobs so far. Should I list down all the jobs and provide details for each?

It is best to begin with the latest job first. Keeping in mind that a resume should not be very lengthy nor verbose, focus on top three jobs especially if you have varied experiences within them. The last three can be a basic outline of your role.

What achievements should I highlight in my resume?

Customization is critical here. Go through the job description in great detail. Pick up the key words that best describe the job and the quintessential skills needed for that job. Emphasis on those skills and competencies in your resume. For instance, if you are moving cross functionally from procurement to communications, it would be best to highlight the networking you did in procurement and its outcome and impact on the business.

Should I write about my hobbies and interests?

Short answer – no. it is not your hobbies that will land you the job! However, candidates applying for their first job often mention their interests. If you are the one who is keen to showcase them, list down only those hobbies/interests that really complement the resume and the role you are applying for. A communicator’s greatest strength is the writing skills that she/he brings on the table. So, if you are a budding writer or have your own blog or a strong social media presence wherein you express individual views, then definitely yes, put that down.

I have done multiple certificate courses. How do I squeeze all my educational qualifications?

You do not. Just mention your graduation/post-graduation details and a couple of key certified courses that have a strong bearing on the role you have applied for. The remaining can be bundled under ‘other qualifications/certifications’.

If you have any sticky question regarding your resume, do reach out to me.

A resume that is short, precise, clear and authentic will always receive a second glance. Make that effort!

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Sarita Bahl is an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Swedish Institute of Management Program. An experienced and versatile leader, she comes with nearly four decades of professional experience. She has over the years successfully overseen the communications and public affairs function and led the corporate social responsibility strategy for Bayer South Asia, Pfizer, and Monsanto, among others. Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, the public sector, trade associations, MNCs, and the not-for-profit sector. Her areas of interest include advocacy, stakeholder engagement, sustainability, and communications.

As an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and Senior Practitioner (Mentoring) from the European Council of Mentoring and Coaching (EMCC), Sarita specializes in career transition, inner engineering and life issues. Sarita enjoys writing and is passionate about animals, books, and movies.

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